Charlotte is not the team Chicago needs to catch in order to move into playoff position. However, a victory over the Bobcats could further help the Bulls’ push for a postseason spot.
The Bulls look to continue their home dominance over the Bobcats when they meet Saturday night.
Ninth in the Eastern Conference, Chicago (36-39) is four games behind seventh-place Charlotte in the standings. The Bulls, however, pulled within 1 1/2 games of Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot with a 95-87 win at Washington on Friday.
Derrick Rose(notes) scored 24 points and Luol Deng(notes) added 14 in his return from an 11-game absence due to a strained calf. Joakim Noah(notes) had 10 and eight rebounds in his first start after coming off the bench the previous six games after returning from a foot injury.
Though the Bulls have won five of seven, they still aren’t completely healthy. Rose (hip, wrist), Kirk Hinrich(notes) (sprained ankle) and rookie James Johnson(notes) (sprained foot) continue to play through injuries.
“I try to remind everybody that we’re going to be in the playoffs, we’ve just got to continue to win,” Rose said. “Even though the task is going to be hard, we’re still going to fight and try to come together.”
Having Deng back and Noah able to see increased minutes, Chicago has a chance to make a serious late playoff push. Scoring 19.7 points per game, Deng played 27 minutes Friday and could see those minutes increase down the stretch if his calf doesn’t give him any trouble.
“The longer I was out there, I actually felt better,” Deng said. “I really don’t know how it’s going to respond. The other day from practice it tightened up a little bit, so I’m sure it will be a little tight, but it’s feeling good right now.”
The Bulls, who play four of their final seven games at home, have had little trouble handling Charlotte at the United Center. They’re 8-2 all-time at home against the Bobcats with wins in the teams’ last two meetings in Chicago.
Noah had 21 points with 16 rebounds and Deng added 14 points and 11 boards in Chicago’s 93-90 home win over the Bobcats (40-35) on Nov. 7. Charlotte won 113-108 at home in the last meeting between the teams Jan. 5.
Rose had 24 points and nine assists in that contest, while Deng added 18 points with nine rebounds.
Moving closer to clinching the franchise’s first playoff berth, the Bobcats look to reverse their struggles in Chicago while trying for a third consecutive victory overall after beating Milwaukee 87-86 in overtime Friday.
“I’m glad this game was how it was because we got a taste of how the playoffs are going to be,” Jackson said.
Jackson is averaging 23.7 points in his last six games against the Bulls.
These teams conclude the regular season at Charlotte on April 14.